Elizabeth Warren Makes Hillary Clinton Work for It

Her “cheering” for Bernie Sanders is buoying progressives who reject calls for Sanders to exit the race.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
March 27, 2016, 9 p.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t shoot from the hip. The Massachusetts Democrat even refuses impromptu interviews that many other lawmakers do routinely in Capitol hallways.

So it’s noteworthy that Warren, a hero to progressives, has firmly rejected the idea that it’s time for Bernie Sanders to exit stage left. Instead, she’s offering a fresh “attaboy” to his insurgent presidential campaign.

‘‘He’s out there. He fights from the heart. This is who Bernie is,’’ Warren told reporters in Quincy, Massachusetts Thursday when asked if Sanders should quit. ‘‘And he has put the right issues on the table both for the Democratic Party and for the country in general, so I’m still cheering Bernie on.’’

The comments by the careful senator, a powerful figure on the Left whose support Hillary Clinton surely covets, signal that she believes there’s a benefit to Sanders forging ahead even though he now faces very, very long odds for the Democratic nod.

Warren said she’ll make an endorsement at some point. But not yet. And for now, her full-throated support for the continuation of Sanders’s campaign will bolster him at the grassroots.

Her comments drew huzzahs Friday from progressive activists who have been thrilled by Sanders’s aggressive attacks on Wall Street and other campaign planks.

“Elizabeth Warren was acknowledging that Democrats benefit from an extended primary. That’s because voters have seen a race to the top between Sanders and Clinton on economic-populist issues like debt-free college, expanding Social Security, and Wall Street reform—all of which are super popular and will help Democrats in November,” said Marissa Barrow of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Warren’s comments arrived ahead of caucuses Saturday in Washington state, Hawaii, and Alaska, where Sanders scored victories—especially in Washington—that could help keep attention focused on his campaign.

Neil Sroka of Democracy for America, which backs Sanders, says Warren’s comments are an effective rejection of efforts by parts of the Democratic establishment to nudge Sanders out of the race.

Warren, he said, understand that the fight is making both candidates stronger and more effective potential nominees.

“The comments she made, I think, are right in line with where the vast majority of the Democratic grassroots base is. They love the fight that Bernie Sanders is waging; they think it’s critical, the role he is playing in this debate, and they want this fight to go on,” said Sroka, the group’s communications director.

Sroka credits Warren with “soundly rejecting” claims by the “professional consulting class” that Sanders should get out. “Democrats would be hurt if this contest were prematurely ended just because some Washington establishment players think it is time to take up their springtime golf,” said Sroka, whose group was behind the unsuccessful attempt to convince Warren to run herself.

And Warren, by staying neutral in the race and praising Sanders, can keep pushing Clinton on the Massachusetts Democrat’s signature issues. Take these comments from Warren, as reported by the network NECN:

Addressing Hillary Clinton, Warren explained that she wanted her party’s front-runner to avoid certain pitfalls regarding big business.

“This is about the future, making it clear how you plan to rein in Wall Street and that you are not going to surround yourself with people who are beholden to the financial-services industry,” she said.

Michael Goldman, a veteran Democratic strategist in Massachusetts, sees a strategy behind Warren’s positioning.

She and Sanders share a similar message about an economy rigged against working people, and her best move, Goldman says, is to push Clinton as far to the left as possible before she inevitably begins tacking back to the right in the general election.

“The more that [Clinton] is committed to the message that she and Bernie are talking about, the stronger [Clinton] will be on that issue when she starts to make the move to the center,” he said. He personally backs Clinton but believes the battle against Sanders has molded her into a better candidate.

Goldman predicts that, eventually, Warren will become an effective and powerful supporter of Clinton, once the former secretary of State has amassed enough delegates to win the nomination.

Campaign aides for Clinton and Sanders declined to comment on Warren’s remarks.

Warren made clear that she sees no reason to offer an endorsement now. “I haven’t endorsed a candidate because I think it is right what’s happening in the Democratic primary,” she said. “We’re hearing from two candidates who are out there talking about the issues that affect hardworking people across this country.”

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